Travels in France, Part Two

Josephine’s boudoir in Malmaison

Pat here. I will attempt to stop drooling over French food this time and dive into a few of the historical places I actually went to see. (that’s a lie. I went for the wine and cheese but Josephine’s boudoir is worthy of a gawk or two)

Avignon papal palace
Papal Palace of Avignon

Our first major stop was Avignon and the pope’s palace. The original palace was begun in 1252 so the king of France could install his own pope. Later, as the political conflict in Rome became more violent, (really, one would think clergy would behave better) Clement V, of Gascony, fled there in 1309. Clement lived with the monks, but by the time Pope Benedict XII came along, the old building wasn’t sufficient for his safety. He began reconstruction of the old palace into a fortress with a cloister around 1334.

model of Papal Palace in Avignon
model of Papal Palace in Avignon

After 1342, under the next popes, an even grander palace grew on the site, taking almost the entirety of the papal budget. The conflicts in the church did not end when Gregory XI returned to Rome, ending the Avignon Papacy in 1377. The pope’s Avignon retreat was finally besieged in 1398 by antipapal forces. Eventually, as all things do, the palace deteriorated. In 1791, it was the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the latrines. Much of what we see today is a restoration that has been going on since 1906. So much history in one magnificent building! This is why it’s impossible to blog about my travels. I dive down bunny holes.

Avignon also has an active theater and art festival that’s celebrated by artists painting scenes

painted window of theatrical scene
Painted window Avignon

from plays on the windows.

Viviers, in the Ardeche, is famed for its medieval cathedral and was one of the many wonderful old towns with narrow winding streets we visited. Here, though, we were

narrow alley in Vivier
narrow alley in Vivier

invited to visit the insides of one of the ancient

stone interior stairwell of ancient townhouse
Vivier townhouse

townhouses to see how it was updated. But modern bathrooms in centuries old houses just don’t photograph appropriately!

I am skipping the obligatory cathedral pics, although the artwork and architecture are mind blowing. I only have so much space here. . .

Since I was there to study medieval architecture, I was fascinated by the town of Perouges, which was made into a

stone fortress walls
Church and fortress walls in Perouges

walled town by craftsmen and weavers around 1167. The local church was incorporated into the wall and part of the fortress. Despite attacks by various armies, the town didn’t become officially French until 1601.

It was bypassed by roads in 1911, and the practically untouched village remains as a tourist attraction. I have some great photos of the narrow roads and flower-bedecked buildings but they’re full of people with umbrellas. I was fascinated and charmed, but all that stone doesn’t work for my Gravesyde, unfortunately. The inn with the half-timbering is more what I’m imagining except my guys haven’t added tile roofs yet.

medieval timbered inn
Perouges inn

Skipping the obligatory Eiffel Tower pic, we could see it from the roof of our boat! We only managed the one night in Paris. Because of the flooding, we had to change ports and couldn’t get back. But here’s a fun pic of the Assemblee Nationale (originally a Bourbon palace and

“modernized” by Napoleon) showing the Venus de Milo with arms and carrying various sports equipment in honor of the Olympics.  I could post for a year on


all the fascinating places in Paris since I’ve studied so much about the Revolution, but it’s probably easier to look them up on Wikipedia.


Not exactly historically relevant (except the Nazis tookcastle on hill above palace

La Roche Guyonit over and used it for headquarters) is this cave castle  in La Roche-Guyon in the Seine Valley. The original fortress was inside the mountain, huge rooms carved out of chalk and flint. Talk about your dungeons! Gradually, more comfortable quarters were built below. It’s a fascinating place. Many of the contents were sold off to maintain it (sort of like my Wycliffe Manor) and the library is filled with “ghost” books to represent the ones they lost.

One of my favorite rooms (can you spot me in the hat?) held

painting of Esther
La Roche painting of Esther

magnificent paintings of the marriage of Esther. The story is in the link, but the irony is in the Nazis using this room for their meetings—not aware that it celebrated a Jewish princess saving the Jewish people from a massacre.

I have more wonderful medieval towns and entertaining scenes in my files, plus tons of pics of Josephine’s Malmaison, but this blog has already grown much too long! I only saw a very tiny part of France, along the Rhone and Seine Rivers. I need to go back and spend much more time there. But then, I also need to return to the British Isles, since that ‘s where my books are set, and. . . It’s either write books or travel. Which would cover of the Question of the Wedding Pearlsyou choose?

And since I didn’t get to talk about my book coming out tomorrow, I’m popping it in here. . . The Question of the Wedding Pearls, the fourth book in my Graveysyde romantic mystery series is now available in all formats!





15 thoughts on “Travels in France, Part Two”

  1. So many gorgeous places to see, Pat! I’d love to take that river cruise. But when I look at Josephine’s bed–yes, it’s beautiful, but I bet my mattress is more comfortable!

  2. “Venus de Milo with arms carrying various sporting equipment in honor of the Olympics” – made me smile. First one of the day – thank you.

  3. Thanks for the glimpse, Pat! So many places to see…so little time! Even three weeks in
    and around Paris wasn’t enough time when i visited in 1985, though i can’t complain ….we saw a good chunk!

    • Three weeks gave you an opportunity, at least. Our hasty tour covered quite a bit of the required places, and even some of the fun local places, but wow, there is so much more!

  4. More wonderful coverage but I’m looking forward to tomorrow when The Question of the Wedding Pearls drops into my kindle!

  5. Congratulations on the release of The Question of the Wedding Pearls, Pat. And thank you for the post and pictures. To answer your question as to whether I’d rather write or travel, I’d choose to travel. I’m happy, however, that authors frequently choose to write!

  6. You have definitely sold me on a trip to France, Pat – next year! So much to see and I would love to visit some of those old untouched villages. Sounds fabulous!

    • just to soak up the feeling is so awesome! I wish there were more places we could see inside where they’re as untouched as the outside, but people live there. 😉 Do go, though!


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